Tag Archives: Reykjavik

A departure from the unusual

Tuesday 13th July 2021. Today was departure day, with all of the old familiarities of international travel subsumed by the strangeness and uncertainties imposed by the pandemic. Our departure was not until 4pm, so at least we could do something we  are used to doing, which was to wander the streets of a town exploring as we went.  The area of Reykjavik around our hotel is full of lovely little architectural touches, as well as homicidal people on rented electric scooters, and it repays rambling around. In many places, the actual streets are decorated.

and there’s the longest hopscotch track [Jeremy Clarkson Voice ON] in the world [Jeremy Clarkson Voice OFF].

Many of the buildings have some quite extravagant art on them.

And the touches of colour are not only for the traditionally-architected buildings

but can also be found among the more modern ones.

At one stage we stopped for a coffee, in, as it happens, the bar out of which we got chucked at closing time yesterday.

At that point we were en route from the downtown area which contains both the Lutheran cathedral (which, while attractive enough, is, well, just a church really, and hardly Interesting at all)

and the Roman Catholic cathedral (the Church of Christ the King, an altogether much grander affair, unsurprisingly)

in our search for the final Interesting Church of the holiday, which we’d espied as we scurried to and from our Covid test.

This is Háteigskirkja, which as far as I can tell is a non-denominational church. Its website modestly refrains from conveying very much useful information about it, which is a shame, because it’s a striking building; and as the door was open (unusually in our experience of Iceland’s Interesting Churches) we ventured in to find some lovely mosaics inside.

Climbing the stairs to the gallery level we noticed yet more stairs continuing up… the place was deserted so of course we climbed them, eventually arriving at a final workman’s stair up to an open trapdoor… Well, what is a photographer to do when faced with an open trapdoor? Thus we clambered out into one of the bell towers.

When we did this, it was about five to midday and I wasn’t going to hang about trying for artistic images just in case these bells were attached to a clock – so we scarpered back the way we had come!

On the way back to our hotel, we caught a glimpse of the back end of Hallgrímskirkja, the “Space Shuttle” church.

I was quite glad to get that picture, as it’s very difficult to do it from near the church itself.

And that was the end of our wandering around Reykjavik, as it was time to collect our bags and hope that the taxi would arrive that Dagur had promised us would take us to the airport.  Arrive it did, bang on time, with a very large and friendly chap driving it. He whisked us off to the airport where we went through the various formalities of providing the necessary documentation to prove we weren’t currently plague-ridden.  As we approached the security check, I realised that I still had my penknife with me; I usually remember to pack it in my hold luggage, as the security bods don’t generally like people carrying them on to aeroplanes.  Since this was a Swiss Army knife – not a huge one, but even the small ones are ridiculously expensive to replace – I decided to ask the security chap if there was any way I could take it through.  Rather to my surprise, he said it was OK, which was nice of him.

Covid paperwork – and the necessity to wear a mask – aside, the departure process was exactly like it always was, though I suppose the airport was less crowded than it might have been.  After a mask-free fortnight, this was not particularly welcome, but it shows that care is still needed.

We treated ourselves to a coffee and a toastie, and boarded the plane, which was only a few minutes delayed. Much to my surprise, the WiFi on board was free, so I took the opportunity to update this blog as far as I had time to do (you’ll have inferred that this didn’t include today’s entry), and took advantage of some sustenance to fuel the creative juices.

(That wasn’t all me – Jane decided she had to provide moral support.)

Arrival at Heathrow was on the original schedule, and we took the usual half-mile walk to get to the border checks, wondering if there was a horror story about to unfold, having heard tales of six-hour delays and horrendous queues.  Much to our surprise, everything was very swift.  We had all the right paperwork, we whizzed through the border checks, our bags came out pretty fast and our taxi was very nearly awaiting us, we got through so quickly – Heathrow Terminal 2 was very, very quiet.  From touch down to getting the kettle on at home took barely over an hour and a quarter.

And so we reach the end of our adventure into a really unusual place.  Iceland is a remarkable destination, even if you only stay and do the tourist bit in the south; but having seen most of the accessible areas of the island, with, in Dagur, a guide who knows his way around and could make sure we saw things of interest to us, made our time there even more impactful. And we’ve covered a lot of ground:

The middle bit is only accessible with courage and a backup car, but looking at that summary I can understand why our brains were full of the sights, sounds and smells of the country.  It’s been a fantastic fortnight, and we’ve loved the place.  We Will Be Back, as it will be interesting to see what the place is like in Winter (apart from just cold, of course).  I’ll do a further blog post with some general summary-type thoughts about Iceland, and so maybe you’d like to come back in a couple of days to take a look; it will be our opportunity to round off what’s been an extraordinary holiday in a really unusual country.


Cry Freedom! And let’s slip into Reykjavik

Monday 28th June 2021, evening. We spent some three and a half hours acquainting ourselves with our hotel room whilst we anxiously awaited the outcome of our Covid tests.  In the distance, we could hear the tinkling of a piano.  Well, it as more a crashing than a tinkling.  I wondered if it was someone practising, Jane thought it was just rubbish. But it gave us something to get slightly distracted by whilst we waited……

At 8pm, the all-clear came in the rather prosaic and anti-climactic form of an SMS text saying “Screening could not detect COVID-19”.  No fanfare, no chorus of angels, just the beep of an incoming message.  But good news, nonetheless, as we were both getting a bit sharp set.

So we decided it was time to go out and explore our surroundings somewhat, not least because, against all odds, the sun was shining – not something we felt we had any right to expect.  We took an interim stop in the hotel bar, which was useful in several respects: firstly, getting to know Viking beer, a decent local lager; secondly getting a steer from the barman as to somewhere to eat (see later); and thirdly, to meet, briefly, Chris Foster, a friend of Jane’s from her folk-singing days. I would say “dim and distant” but if she reads that, she’ll slap me. The cost of spirits being what it is in parts Nordic, we’d brought a decent scotch and thus were able to present it to him.  We plan to meet him again when we return to Reykjavik en route home.

The Sand Hotel is set in Laugavegur, one of Reykjavik’s centralised, largely pedestrianised, streets, and very charming it is, too.  You can see at a stroke the quirky nature of this street, as well as the ubiquity of the electric scooters which make life as a pedestrian more tense than is strictly necessary.

As I took this photo, it became clear where the piano “music” was coming from. Up the street was a piano player who had extraordinary technique but could only muster appalling results.

We pottered in the direction that the barman said contained a good burger bar, noting the artworks adorning many of the street’s buildings

and spotting, in the distance, the hint of an impressive spire.

We eventually found the burger joint that our barman recommended

and it’s entirely in keeping with the quirky nature of the neighbourhood.  The burgers are OK, but the chips are stellar!  Walking back to the hotel, we detoured to explore the spire, and found it belonged to a quite remarkable building.

It’s called Hallgrímskirkja, locally referred to as the “Space Shuttle” and can be visited during the day; perhaps we will get a chance to look inside on our return to the city.

By this stage, it was getting a bit late and cool, so we wended our weary way back to the hotel and so to bed.  The day was a disconcerting mix of strange and familiar, and we felt the need of getting some sleep to help us be ready for whatever tomorrow might bring, and who knows what that might be?  Come back and find out!